Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, has revealed there is a simple explanation for Leon Clarke’s remarkable run of form.
Clarke scored all four of his team’s goals during last weekend’s victory over Hull City; a result which saw United enter the international break second in the Championship table after winning the League One title last term.
After watching the centre-forward hit the target 14 times in his previous 19 appearances, Wilder cited work-rate, combined with the relationship he enjoys with team mates and supporters alike, as the catalysts for Clarke’s renaissance.
“They have to chase people down and put a shift in,” Wilder said. “If they don’t, then they won’t play. He (Clarke) won’t score goals sat in the stands will he?
“People might look upon things like hard-work as old school. They’re not old school, they’re fundamentals for us. If you work hard and are selfless in your approach, like he is, then you get your rewards.”
After enduring an injury hit start to his career at Bramall Lane, Clarke has emerged as a key member of the squad which moved to within two points of leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers following Saturday’s demolition of Leonid Slutsky’s side.
Despite his reputation for being a loner, colleagues including Chris Basham and captain Billy Sharp have all gone on record to describe Clarke as a “leader” in United’s dressing room since arriving at the club from Bury 16 months ago. Echoing that sentiment, Wilder insisted the 32-year-old’s reputation is not only undeserved, but also unjust.
“We just want all our players to enjoy being here, to enjoy working here and the chemistry between them is key,” Wilder said. “It’s a well-rounded and very grounded group.
“It’s about the club and a brilliant club at that. The supporters, if you want to run, put your foot in and not shirk responsibilities, they’ll get right behind you. It’s not a dressing room of clones but they all get on. Leon has been first class. His displays have been first class.”